Saturday, February 4, 2012

Italia! La vita e bella :)

This January I went to Italy for 10 days.  My ragazzo and I roadtripped all over Italy (mostly Tuscany) and spent some time in Milan. It was probably on of the best trips I have done. I loved that every detail of the trip was not planned out until usually the day before, but instead we left Milan with only a basic idea where we would go. During the trip I had a notebook and wrote down my thoughts and everything we saw/did/ate in every city. Looking at it now made me want to write about it :) I seriously feel so lucky to have been able to do this, it was such an amazing trip filled with delicious food, beautiful views of Italy, and getting to explore new parts of Italy (one of my favorite countries).

Lets begin on where we went: First I landed in Milan, was there for a few days, we went to Lucca, Pisa, Volterra, Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, and back to Milan for a couple more days, then to Barcelona. 

First I arrived in Milan, where Rocco has an apartment really close to the center, minutes from the Stazione Centrale (the central station). We spent New Year's there, going to a dinner at his friends place and then went to the Duomo (which was a little too crazy for us, but still a great night). We spent some more time there and then began our Tuscany roadtrip.

Our first stop was Lucca. This was a small but super cute and tranquil town. The main attractions were: Piazza S. Michele (a plaza with lots of restaurants and church St. Michele) and el anfiteatro (my personal favorite), which is a circular plaza with pretty buildings of all colors, Basilica Di S. Frediano, and the Duomo. We saw basically the whole city in 45 minutes, but it a great first little stop.

After Lucca, we went to Pisa and had booked our hotel the night before We arrived in Pisa around 6pm and went to Hotel Francesco, which was on the main street leading to the leaning tower. We had a view of the tower from our room. We went to dinner to one of my favorite places of the trip. It was a local spot, we happened to find on hours before. This restaurant was different than the typical restaurant because when you entered you read the menu written on the wall and ordered. Ten you self-served yourself, as in getting your own place mats, utensils, cups, napkins, etc. Then once your food is ready, they call it out, and you go get it and bring it to the table you chose. I actually really enjoyed this type of place, it was super easy, fast, and different. The food was also really delicious, we ordered Pasta alla bacalo a cheese plate (typical of Pisa) that contained 6 different types of cheeses, a plate of vegetable pastries with a side of hummus, a great house wine, and two delicious desserts (one chocolate cake and a ricotta cheese dessert). Everything was so good! After dinner we saw the major attractions of Pisa by night, but in the morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. It was actually pretty hot for January. We went to the leaning tower square. I was actually very fascinated by the leaning tower, I could not take my eyes off of it I think because I have never seen anything like it before. It was incredible to see a building that was leaning very much to one side but stayed put. We decided to go up the 300+ steps of the tower and see the views from the top. After we went to the River Arno, it was very pretty and reminded me of Florence's river. We had lunch near the tower, shared a margarita pizza and salad with pineapples, walnuts, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, etc. After, we headed to Volterra.

As we were driving into Volterra, the views were amazing, such beautiful hills with many different trees (including the famous Cyprus tree known for the Tuscany region). It was so pretty and a sunny day so even better. We got to Volterra about an hour later. This town was one of my favorites. It was a small town on the top of the mountain, so had an amazing view of the hills and valleys below. We arrived a little before sunset, and what a sunset it was! The views were breathtaking with the mix of pink, yellow, and orange sky. We walked around this little city, saw the Duomo, a famous park on top of the city which contains famous old tombs, cathedrals, and just sat staring at the city from high points just admiring it all. We both really loved Volterra.

Next, we went to Siena. Which quickly became another favorite. We arrived around 7pm after leaving Volterra.  Our "hotel" was so cute, it was a room rented out of a nice house that was on a hill (with a view of Siena) and really close to the Duomo and the famous plazas. We went to dinner at a place that a sweet lady from Siena recommended to us while we were parking. (**Side note but I forgot to mention that the people in Tuscany were all very friendly, always trying to help us and give us advice on where to go, it definitely was something positive added to the trip). The recommendation was really good, the place was near our hotel too. I ordered gnocci and we shared a cheese plate and of course wine. Rocco ordered a fish that I really liked. After dinner we went to see the Duomo by night. It was really pretty, we just sat there for a while staring at it, then we wen to plaza del Campo which is shaped like a shell and had a lot of life (full of people outside, bars, restaurants, etc). Since it was the holiday season there were stars and "auguri" shining on the buildings over and over, which made it look extra pretty. We decided to go to a pub behind us with the view of the plaza del Campo, we sat outside and got something delicious to drink, it was great.
The next day we got to experience Siena by day, but it was very foggy outside. We went to the Duomo, the plaza del Campo, and took a "romantic walk" to see the views of Siena from a high point of the city. We walked uphill to a Basilica and saw great views of the city center. Then we just walked all over the city, ate some gelato (even though it was very cold) and then made our way to Arezzo (which we booked just hours before at an internet cafe).


We got to Arezzo around 7pm and the drive was really rainy. Our hotel was a little outside Arezzo in a town called Vioraggagio but was really nice. We went to dinner in the city of Arezzo, without having a place in mind, but people in the center recommended us a place. It was good, I got pesto pasta and me and Rocco shared a melted cheese platter with cooked mushrooms on top (yum) and of course a good wine from Arezzo.
The next day we had a free breakfast included from our awesome hotel (score!) then we went into town to explore and visit museums, see art, eat lunch, etc. We went to Basilica San Francesco that had really famous frescos. We ate outside at a really cute restaurant in the central plaza and it faced the center.  We also went to Casa Vasari (the house where the fresco painter used to live), each room had a different fresco with an interesting story behind it. Also, we went to the museum of Medieval & Modern art before heading to Perugia.

For our last stop we went somewhere outside of Tuscany, and went to Perugia (which is in the Umbria region). I was very curious and excited to see this city. I couldn't help but think of Amanda Knox the whole time we were there (as well as tourists we overheard talking about her), it was inevitable. We got there around 6pm and arrived at our 4-star hotel (wonderful place). We looked up restaurants online and one in particular was already making our mouths water (just from reading the menu). We called and made reservations at Enone and were so excited for the meal to come. We arrived and you had to walk downstairs to go to the restaurant, it was very intimate, in the main section there were about 8-10 tables and close to one another. Just as we thought, the food was unreal. First we got delicious wine from Sicily. Then we ordered a cheese plate (surprise surprise, we love cheese) with 5 different kinds of cheese and it came with a bread bowl. Then we ordered a greek salad to share, so yummy. I got the tuna steak in a sesame crust (I die), which the waiter kindly recommended and Rocco ordered the crusted salmon. Both were SO delicious, in the end we were so full we could not even order dessert (which I highly craved before). It was I think the best meal we had in Italy!
The next day it was time to explore the city. We were lucky it was super sunny and pretty but very cold. We walked around exploring, ate some pizza, went to about 4 different viewpoints, and sat in the sun. Then we headed back to Milan- it was the end of a wonderful experience/ roadtrip/ romantic adventure.

Last was Milan again! I had already been to Milan once before for about a day, but this time it was so different. Rocco lived in a really cozy and cute apartment really close to the center. I felt super at home and comfortable there. For our last days in Italy he showed me things most tourists do not see. It was super sunny and there were people everywhere (it was a Saturday and the first day of rebajas in Italy began), but it was wonderful. I loved having Rocco to show me around. He showed me the famous middle finger statue that is in front of one of the most famous banks of Milan. It was insane, but such a different type of artwork to see in public. Next we saw the Roman ruins and then the canals of Milan (who knew they had canals...right?). I loved this, made me feel like I was in Venice again. We saw the sunset, then walked around, ate some cannolis. Then we went home, made dinner, and watched a movie. It was time to go back to Barcelona...but it was such an amazing trip...I had the best time..would love to do it all over again :)


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